Nature Naturally Nurtures


driving to dive

Not feeling that hungry I eat half the yogurt granola cup but not the arugula egg salad we made too. We get to the dive shop 15 minutes early and park to the left of the stairs. Our driver and the Brazilian couple who will join us arrive at 7am. The driver drinks coffee with his headphones in while we all nap before getting to Playa del Carmen an hour later (with speeds up to 120km/h). The driver introduces us to Claudio, who will be our guide, and who preps our gear while the other two groups diving from the same boat arrive.


pleased post

We wait in the sand and I attempt to find shade on the side of a truck. I see all the boats tied up and try to follow their ropes that disappear into the sand. One boat of divers are bringing guns to catch dinner; the only weapon I shoot is a (was going to use a Canon joke here) GoPro to catch smiling sharks and frowning fish. I remove my flip-flops for the walk through sea grass and thigh-high water. I find my tank, where I’ll be sitting, and have Caleb to my left and another dive buddy, girl from Germany, to my right.


growing green

It’s a 45 minute boat ride to the first dive site and not much conversation with the sun, wake, and wind that’s hitting the guys in the back while I sit in the shade with the breeze through my hair. I’m the fourth in the water via one giant stride forward but the last one to the bottom (I’m a slow equalizer). The couple goes down dating and comes up engaged. The guy got on his knee in the sand and presented the ring, but their GoPro was dead at the surface, so they did not get proof.


see the sea turtle swallow the small tunicate

The German girl begins to surface and then stays within five feet of it and follows us from there (turns out this was her fourth dive and she was having trouble with the pressure in her ears). I’m glad Claudio is so adaptable as he was also busy buddy breathing (two people on one air tank) with the new engaged groom while guiding the rest of us on a dive, with 40 minutes bottom time, so that the soon-to-be-bride could point out the sea turtle as we were ready to end the dive.


they’re not all yellow — spotted moray and arrow crab

I have a banana and half a hoagie of cheese and tomato (less flopping about while diving equals less appetite after) during our 40 minute surface interval before taking a giant stride off the back of the boat for round two. As I’m descending, a surfer looking merman approaches me to make sure my ears and air are ok, but I let him know it’s not me he has to worry about. I realize the guides talked and he’s here as a spare tank of air for the fiancé. As he retires to the boat the fiancé goes back to Claudio to complete our 50 minute dive at a shallower depth.


dusty daisies

We see a couple of eels, tons of crabs (at least their cribs and eyes), a lobster with a friend, and a ray in the distance. I’ve learned that most rays are accompanied by a cleaning fish and love the other-species buddy system in nature, especially when some animals eat their own young. This makes humans such awkward creatures as we make laws to enforce kindness/dominance upon our own species and attempt to share it with other animals as they fit our needs for food, farming, fun, and friendship.


shameless selfie

I ride with my eyes closed, possibly half asleep, with my wetsuit on and unzipped back to the beach and wait for Caleb to prep our bags for me to help carry. The driver loads the gear in the back and turns up the a/c so I can sleep in the middle with my sleeves off in a warmer environment back to Cancun, and to the room as Caleb drives. I try to describe the amount of exhaustion I feel and know something is not right. Caleb just wants to get me in the house and helps to remove my wetsuit while I sit limp on the bed.


Frida Kahlo facing the kitchen

I pee out my butt and lay down (or get pulled into a sleep position by Caleb) for a three-hour nap with an open bag of fig snacks. I think it’s the next morning when I wake at 6 pm and am ready to eat before we dive. Caleb agrees we can eat, but also get more sleep before tomorrow. I eat the Danone Oikos con Frutos Verdes en el Fondo (“Oikos with green fruit in the background” — apple, kiwi, grape) Greek yogurt before we walk to 100% Natural for dinner.


cardiac caricature

Caleb orders an appetizer and a green juice (mostly celery) to share and I eat half my Basque-style pancakes (sourdough) with mixed berries and cream cheese so we can get back to the room because I will poo at the restaurant and again back at the house. I sleep from 830 to 1130, through Finn and his friends drinking and cooking nachos. I will poo again and have more pancakes and water. I didn’t know if it was street meat (food poisoning), the bends (fatal bubbles in my body), or lupus (an 85% women disease), but as I lay in a slumber of sickness Caleb had been on Google.


sensuously simple

The internet told him that my symptoms meant I had heat exhaustion. I was hot, tired, and achy and swimming against a current in an unneeded 7mm wetsuit in a high humidity environment with a lack of sunscreen that leads to cooked skin that wasn’t helping my condition. I fall back asleep only to wake at 1 am in a sweat to pee. Caleb is having trouble sleeping with all the noise and my tossing about. He insists I drink more water and says we will get some Gatorade before our four dives tomorrow before asking me to message Nina, our hostess, about the noise and lights being left on.

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Missing Museo Mercado


our street for the week

Breakfast will include a walk to a taco cart for some street meat, but not the one on the corner at the end of our street. We continue walking until I find a cart with eggs and all his tacos come with rice. The couple is very friendly and the wife offers us fresh juice as well, but then we will have no free hand to eat with as we make a circle around the block back to the house to get the car while we eat this delicious meal.


desayuno = dos tacos

The schedule was thrown off by the weather and though the shop is closed on Saturday they have offered to set us up with some of their guys in Playa del Carmen, so today will be for exploring the Zona Hotelera… or so we think. Caleb wanted to start with the mall, but they don’t open till 9am and I don’t want to pay for an hour of walking around when we can do that for free. I park the car near an area that looks like the service entrance to hotels with a minimum cost of $270/night (some more than $500) so that we can visit the free beach nearby, Playa Marlin.


Firefighters Rescue

“Oh look at the view, it’s so pretty!” and then the diveshop calls us at 8:30 and asks if we’re available to dive, “Of course we are!” Now we’re wishing we had the dive gear in the car to save the extra 14 km it’s going to take us to drive north, do a snatch and run (forget my dive watch), and get there 20 minutes after 9am to meet Ulises who will be our private guide today to Punta Negra reef and Grampin Tunnel. Miguel would be our driver to deliver us over high waves, at least enough bumping around that I asked Caleb how his neck was doing.


Playa Marlin

We were both just so excited to be diving again after a nine month hiatus and eager to get in the water and below the waves. I’m slow to equalize with my thick wetsuit so dry and I try to put chin to chest to get down, but it’s not fast enough before we miss the dive site and have to reboard the boat to add weight and return to the drop spot. The dive is amazing and even though visibility is only about 20ft we manage to spot a large eel and two camouflage rockfish.


How many fish do you see?


Ulises, our Coconut Divers guide

We surface, wait for the boat, and as I’m removing my fins at the ladder I suddenly feel 16lbs lighter. I climb up and tell Ulises who is quick to look in the water, but it is too late, and he says we can look for my weight belt on the next dive or let the shop know that I owe them money. We change tanks, drink some water, and after a 34 minute surface interval are back under the water for another 50ft dive. This time we will see a nurse shark, more eels, and a crab.


How long do you think he is?


I prefer my crabs under sea and on sand

We swim through some reef arches and then over my weight belt that I attempt to pick up. Now I know why we’re taught to use our hips for placement, but Ulises is quick to take the burden and return a smile along with the ok symbol, so I don’t have to pay for that. We’re back to the room at one to wash the salt off, eat the sandwiches we bought for yesterday’s lunch, and try the pink bottle of tequila (Bailey’s) that we found. Refreshed and re-energized we’re ready to set out again.


hello sharkie


a very blue swim through

I park in a spot marked for some business customers only so that we can walk to what’s left of the building next to them and take pictures, but as I contemplate how long the car will last and start to reverse, there is the guard with an of-course-I’m-here look on his face. I smile and make my way back into traffic to drive us to the Interactive Aquarium so we can see the same fishes but in a much smaller sea (like a prison or rehab cell). There’s plenty of ticket options available to include petting dolphins and riding the Ferris wheel, but we stick with basic entrance for $15 each.


La Isla Shopping Village

There’s about five fish tanks inside and the rays outside next to the lone crocodile tank and then it’s up the stairs and across the walkway that goes over the dolphin pool to the other side with a trek in the tank experience and the gift shop. We stop for a few minutes to watch people pet dolphins ($159pp) and get pushed through the pool by their feet — a ride that costs $109 per person. We leave here to give ourselves at least two hours at the Museo Maya de Cancún y Zona Arqueologica de San Miguelito.


cutest person at the aquarium

We turn left in front of the sign and ask for directions (turn left meant leave this hotel and go up the road to u-turn for the museum parking lot), but we didn’t understand that at the time, so we used the dirt lot that was available in front of the Omni. Tickets are about $3.50 and we start by going up the large spiral ramp that seems to gain heat and humidity with elevation. My body is thrilled to be in the air conditioning and my mind to be among artifacts that are over 2,000 years old.


temperature controlled

Version 2

happy teeth

The Mayan side of the museum focuses on faces and pottery with descriptions in Spanish and the Canadian exhibit on everything snow from the Thule Inuits of 1350 to horses’ shoes of 1930, with translations in Spanish, French, and English. We exit there after my vocabulary of corn and world (maize and mundo) fail to fully explain why these pieces are here. Outside it’s time to go down the spiral ramp and under the exhibit above to admire the large art animal combos and plants grown in a circle.


Museo Maya de Cancún

At the end of this is a guard, who after letting some girls move the barrier rope a foot out of their way for selfies, points us to the trail through the forest. I try to see the birds making noises with their mouths and feet, but what I have no problem spotting is all the iguanas. I wouldn’t mind having some crawling on rock ledges of my place (that I would build immediately) and bobbing their heads, which is cute and I’m sure intimidating to smaller species and the other males.


there’s an iguana

The Mayans chose a timeless rock as the ones that line the path look the same age as the ruins that have withstood abandonment, hurricane seasons, and Spaniards. The trail loops around and we pass a few people before we’re directed up the zig-zag ramp (the one that takes us to the exhibit we’ve already seen), but lucky for us there are two elevators and we take the lazy way down as we’re ready for the water we left in the car.


Zona Arqueologica de San Miguelito

Caleb is feeling sleepy but we take a trip to Wal-Mart to ensure an early breakfast of overnight oats from their fruit bar. Any food left in a pan near people with skin, hair, and spit is liable to be a risky meal, especially here with the little boy sticking his hand into the hot bar/dessert area to grab a bite while his mom isn’t looking. I fill the cup, the deli lady puts a lid on it, then we pay at the register. Interesting fact: they sell their bread already toasted in packaged loaves.


“We’re off to get the tacos, the wonderful tacos of…”

We put groceries away and walk to Tacos de Yaxchilan (a taco cart) behind La Taberna (as recommended in our Airbnb guest book) for two pollo tacos, Caleb gets his with queso, and they come with spare tortillas that double for sauce stability or to catch the fallen ingredients. Caleb is refreshed and ready to try some nightlife. There are three places closest to the house, so we have a look at all of them. One has a line — no, one is empty — also no, so we choose the bar built of wood, metal, and bricks that’s all patio.


music, nature, kids… some of my favorite things

We’re sitting at Las Frias (The Cold) while he updates Instagram and I take notes with sports on the projector. We finish this and head to the room to prep for our morning dives. We walk past and turn off the lights to the mess of beer and food in the living room and kitchen. We hear Finn and his friends through the door drinking and laughing through the night. Staying at a hostel, for the same price, would’ve ensured more quiet after 10pm, and not having to walk around with shoes on because of the sticky floor.


“Reading frees the mind and art expresses it.”

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Cenote Not in Cancun


view from room 627

I didn’t turn off my alarms, but the lightning flashes woke me up before they had a chance. I lay in bed thinking about how the morning would go… breakfast of divorciados (something with eggs) and possibly a quesadilla before diving our first cenote (pronounced sɛˈnt). Here’s what actually happened… We went downstairs at 7:30 and don’t bother with the menu when we see the buffet set out. A waiter asks for our room number, we fill our plates, and sit down.


solo para buceo (only for diving)

We go back to the room to wait a bit longer for the dive shop to open and there’s a knock at the door, “Sir, you no pay your bill.” Umm, well, we thought it was going to be charged to the room, but you can take my credit card with you and figure it out. Just as Caleb began to wonder where he was they met at the elevator and we learn that breakfast cost more than our one night here, but remember we got a discount. Then the diveshop calls to tell us we’re 15 minutes late.


first entrance

Caleb thought she said 8:30, but she got there at 8am, and the guy going with us was already there too. Luckily we’re only 600 meters away from Coconut Divers in the torrential downpour that is outside. Our destination is inland and under rocks so it’s not affected by the weather. We pile into a taxi with Pedro behind the wheel, our guide Leif in the passenger seat, Caleb between me and a Croatian who speaks German with the guide, and our gear piled up to the back of the seat — an efficient use of space.


steps into Chac Mool

The Chac Mool Cenote is a 1.5hr drive south and we splash through the ponds on the street and almost miss our right turn. On the way we learned all about cenotes — stick together with flashlights on so you don’t get lost and die, it’s a Mayan word for cup of water (made in the Ice Ages), and that we’d go from diving in fresh rainwater to salty ocean water (a halocline of blurry water due to science, not being drunk).


me on the right, Caleb’s light bottom right, photo credit: Triton Productions

I asked about the guys in the tall huts along the route — they have to make sure new tents/lean-tos/huts aren’t built on the owner’s land so that when the current tenants leave/die they can sell/develop the land.

The ride was full of laughs. Leif checks in with the owner, napping in his hammock, at the gate and then we park among the trucks. We’re told we can either take pictures or live, but there’s a sign forbidding dying, so there will be a photographer in the water and we can decide later if we want some with us in them or to buy his basic package for cheaper. We take a look at the two entrance points, and start to prep, as third dives are forbidden — possibly to manage traffic between the thousands of cenotes in the Yucatán.


we’re on the right, photo credit: Triton Productions

I wear my 7mm wetsuit and 5mm boots and make the lengthy walk (of the two) and then use the handrail to go down the stairs and into the 77°F water to put my fins on. We’re down 42min (bringing me to 24hrs total bottom time) with Caleb in the back as we stay in a line. We are authorized to cavern dive, meaning we have to see natural light at all times. There are safety lines but they don’t come with arrows or the voice from Google Maps and signs clearly marking the entrances to caves.


following the permanent guideline

I feel like my buoyancy is great (even with 16lbs of weight), but I try clearing my goggles (my least favorite part of diving) and rise to the cavern top and continue the dive with water touching my nose. It’s best to leave a little bit of water around the eyes too, so you can swirl it around to clear the fog instead of having to let in water, swim blindly or stop in sand, and then blow your nose. I don’t know how this works, but it’s better to see under the sea than to swim in a haze.


swimming through the halocline, photo credit: Triton Productions

I’m swimming along with big rocks below, green algae above, and yellow fins in front of me when part of the mouthpiece from the second stage of my regulator (primary breathing hose) comes off and in a split second decision (choke, just breath, or litter) I chose to spit it out. We go through the halocline and visibility turns to blurs as the guy in front of me turns around to make sure he’s not the only one. I let him know it’s ok and if he keeps swimming it will be over soon.

In another area it appears we’re looking at water and it’s reflection off the rocks from above, as you would do at a lake, but from 20 feet below the surface. We get out, walk past the taxi, and then wonder where Pedro got off to as he walks up and tells us that he parked closer for us. We switch tanks and struggle to pull our wetsuits back up as the Croatian was ready to change for lunch (he was promised a burrito and beers) before we take the stairs down to enter at Little Brother.


post dive lunch

This dive is fantastic. I’m behind Leif and used to the freshwater by now (way easier on the face). I’m using my octopus (secondary breathing hose) as my primary. There are so many stalagmites and stalactites and cave bacon that took thousands of years to develop in rooms not flooded with water. There’s also signs of early tourists who took samples with them, but unless we drain these cenotes with buckets and wait a millennium for the next three inches of growth, these are irreplaceable and incredible.


parada de baño (bathroom stop)

We swim into the Air Dome, a room where we can come to the surface of the water and talk about all the plant roots we see as they appear as thick as trees. This is definitely going on the top-five list of most memorable dives. From there, it’s another 15 minutes to reach the stairs. I get to the table and realize as I take my gear off that I’ve torn a chunk out of the pad of my pinky finger. Leif asks one of the guys in the restaurant/photo booth/first aid station to assist me. I’m given an excessive amount of iodine and a band-aid to soak it up.


casa de Airbnb

We are served a chicken burrito as part of our dive package and charged $30 MXN per Dos Equis for lunch. When the group in front of us is done oohing and ahhing at the laptop screen it is our turn to preview the pictures and we are given the option to split the pic/video charge of $60 USD, so that we only pay $40 for footage of our first dive as the photographer isn’t allowed in the second.

Pedro packs our gear and we grab the wetsuits hanging from lines in the trees before I sit in the middle this time — it makes sense to have the smaller person in the middle (though I will deny this fact as a child or when given the option for a window seat on a plane). We make a beer stop and Caleb offers up the $150 pesos for an 8-pk of Victoria with “ni clara, ni oscura, mestiza” meaning ‘neither clear, nor dark, but mixed’ written on the label.


obligatory tourist picture, one of three sculptures that we saw

The Croatian was going to buy the next round, and even though the beers are only 4% ABV, he did the responsible thing and bought us a local snack mix of Paketaxo Botanero (Cheetos, Churrumais, Crujitos, and Sabritones) to share instead. We get back to the Coconut Divers shop at 5pm, get signatures and stamps, and as we walk away Caleb remembers that he forgot to tip the guide. Oh well, we’ll be diving with the same company all week.


el Angel Panadería vía coche (bakery via car)

We find our first successful Airbnb rental, no problem, and actually go the right way down the one-way by missing the first turn. The front door has two locks (one keypad and one key) and we have to unlock the box on the wall to get the keys, the other one will unlock our room. I walked in and then stepped back to admire the cute place we would call home for the week. There’s bananas on the futon, all the lights are on, and we place our bags down to set out on foot in search of cheap food.


street art

We walked through Mercado 28 and I found a dirty looking booth that I was about to approach when this old guy led us under a tent to Margely for 80 peso meals and then walked off after offering me a free margarita (which probably would’ve been crap too). A woman near us was vomiting into a bucket and the tacos were disappointing. I left them the change so we could get back to the room just before the sun disappears.

The other room is being used by a shirtless guy named Finn (introduction via message from hostess) who will take a 30 minute shower upon our arrival while Caleb attempts to sleep with his clothes and glasses on. I will pretend to read my book, post my daily Instagram picture, and then join him in slumberland.

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Really In the Real Inn


a piece of airport art

We had a nice Uber driver keep us busy with conversation on the way to the airport where we would walk around for at least an hour — better to arrive early and buy yogurt, hummus with pretzels, and a salad from CA Pizza Kitchen for the flight than arrive late and not get an awesome plane neighbor from Ohio. The seat across from us was temporarily out of service and the guys put in headphones as I pulled out a book, Hospital, to fill the two hours between San Diego and Houston.

Midway through the Houston to Cancún flight I look over to witness a “crime” and try to describe it via hand signals. The man is holding his infant son with his older son in the middle seat who had grabbed the sleeping wife’s phone and dropped it on the floor. Caleb told me to use my words as I assumed everyone was in a headphones–boring book–sleep haze such as I was. I had missed the window seat assignment again because Caleb “needs” the aisle and the guy didn’t even have the blind up.


inside Cancún International Airport

The airport is empty as we claim our checked bag full of dive gear. We get out to the rental car and vacation booths area and Caleb obliges a guy by listening to his spiel before we step outside to wait for the shuttle that will take us to the rental company, just 6 km away, in the rain. There is a deaf couple writing notes between them and one of the employees, and I watch, intrigued with the exchange of languages between signing, written English, and spoken Spanish.

We’re able to get an automatic transmission like we requested when making the reservation and sign on the line for the mandatory daily insurance, which is three times the total of the weekly rental fee (good thing prices are cheap). We hop in the white 2012 Nissan March and I’m adjusting the mirrors and radio station to drive away before we’ve even done an inspection, just a chip of paint on the front bumper, and we’re off into the darkness that the storm has brought at 6pm.


outside Cancún International Airport

I’m driving 40km/h (just 25mph) in a 70km/h (43.5mph, average speed in the area) zone and so much is going on mentally. I love traveling internationally! There’s lane markings on the road, but we follow the car ahead of us (which unknowingly keeps us out of potholes and flood zones that would sink the car) as they weave a beautiful pattern of safety and light usage, both blinkers and hazards as needed. The easiest, and most American, stop for us on the way to our hotel… Wal-Mart.

I think it ironic that Americans complain about the Mexicans that shop at Wal-Mart and its our first stop to grab diving lunch for tomorrow and bottled water to eliminate the possibility of getting sick. Caleb thought I would have to translate for him, but most everything is bilingual, and they sell food in unwrapped bulk (which I totally nerd out on). Mexicans go to Wal-Mart expecting the same quality and get our watered-down and supersized version. I see the appeal of checking out the familiar in a foreign location.


lighted Jacuzzi at Real Inn

We pull up to the Real Inn, a 3-star hotel with rooms at $80/night that we got for $13. We’ll be spending the rest of the trip at an Airbnb (our first after the one in London cancelled and the Kuwait guy offered me every date but the ones I asked for). The hotels check-in system is down, so we leave the car and sit down at the outdoor restaurant on the water to watch the lightning and order a delicious salad (kale and green apples, etc.) and yummy tacos based on the words – queso, huevo, frijoles, and guacamole.

I go back inside and Humberto is ready to assign me room 627 with a view of the ocean on the other side of the road. We are in the Zona Hotelera on the stretch of land between the Gulf of Mexico and the Nichupte Lagoon. I pull the car from the front of the hotel, where it’s been for at least half an hour and make two u-turns and reverse a bit to park in one of the ten available spots (that I can find). Not much parking in this area as the locals (who walk or take the bus) rely on the tourists getting taxis to their all-inclusive resorts.


lightning in the lagoon

Caleb brings the bags to the room while I finish dinner so we can both enjoy the rainlocker shower before bed. It’s looking at the room service menu where I will learn of the other ingredients in dinner — cactus paddle in the tacos; and spinach, green beans, local chicken, cranberry, walnut, Manchego cheese from Spaniard sheep, and a hard-boiled egg with French vinaigrette and agave on the salad; the only other options being tuna or caesar.

I will stay up a bit longer to read more about the Yucatán Peninsula’s white-sand beaches, Mayan ruins, cenotes (collapsed limestone that creates a sinkhole), and a magical place for 1 to 14 year-olds called KidZania where the kids entry fee is more than the adults because they’re the ones role-playing in a city replica complete with over one hundred career options.

Have you ever postponed a trip due to a storm only to arrive into one?

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Happy Easter, Just Kidding


using Clayton to teach anatomy

No seriously, it is Easter Sunday and April Fools Day, but I had nothing tricky planned. I fell off the Q&A bandwagon, which I thought was just in March, but it seems I missed the last week of February too, so I present to you… some questionable eggs in an answer basket.


lawn gnomes helping in the yard

Feb. 16 What was the last performance or concert you went to? A free concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on January 14th with Caleb and his uncle Ed.


making breakfast

Feb. 17 If you could change something about today, what would it be? I would have blogged about my day and being grateful for my health, husband, and happiness.


meeting midgets

Feb. 18 What’s the most expensive thing you’re wearing now? I’m sure it was my socks.


mock interview gym selfies

Feb. 19 Who is the craziest person in your life? That’s a matter of perspective or perhaps it’s just situational, but I do like being at the top of a list.


a bee carrying dew

Feb. 20 What word did you overuse today? What, because I was in class asking questions after my Unit 1, Part 2 evaluation for Exercise for Special Populations and listening to kids tell stories, show me something they learned, and answering my questions.


learning to tell time

Feb. 21 What is the current buzzword? me too, Ellen, dinner, abs, freeze


beautiful view on way to school

Feb. 22 What was your prevailing emotion of the day? Excitement. I got to walk the neighbor’s kids to school.


crafty classroom

Feb. 23 What’s the most embarrassing purchase on a recent credit card statement?
It’s only food, gas, and Amazon… though that could be anything.


hypertension homework

Feb. 24 Today you’ve got too much… sleep.


looking west over Little Italy

Feb. 25 What’s the last dream you remember? Living in the game of Twisted Metal and running away from a group that tries to adopt me.


100th day of school

Feb. 26 Name one item you can’t throw out. My personality, no matter when or where it is always with me.


second rainbow this month

Feb. 27 Are you the original or the remix? Why? I’m a tamer version of my parents.. or more extreme.. definitely a bit of both.


Sparky lap nap

Feb. 28 When was the last time you were sick? Long ago enough to not remember.


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